By Dylan Butler
Mike Eisenberg returned to coaching the Francis Lewis girls’ basketball team last year after a highly publicized three-year hiatus in grand fashion, leading the Patriots to a 24-4 record and a return to the PSAL ‘A’ final at Madison Square Garden, where Lewis fell to undefeated Murry Bergtraum, 72-36.
The good news for Eisenberg is that the majority of last year’s team is back, making a return trip to the World’s Most Famous Arena a strong possibility.
The bad news is that Bergtraum, the three-time defending city champions, who defeated 11-time state Federation champions Christ the King in the state semifinals last year in Glens Falls, is stronger than ever.
“Truthfully, I think we’re 15 points better than we were last year,” Eisenberg said. “The problem is that Murry Bergtraum is probably 25 points better than they were last year.”
The Patriots’ starting backcourt is back, as 5-foot-7 junior Teresa Rozza, who averaged 11 points per game last year, returns to run the floor, and 5-foot-8 Jasmin Lawrence, who averaged eight points last year and is one of the top sophomores in the city, is back as the starting shooting guard.
Lindsay Metlzer will backup Rozza at the point and, when Lewis needs a defensive stop late in the game, Eisenberg may call on senior guard Jessenia Marrero. Junior Maria Miaoulis is also much improved.
In the frontcourt, 5-foot-11 sophomore Alaina Davis, who Eisenberg calls “talent-wise, the best player up front,” joins 6-foot junior Alanna Adams, 5-foot-11 senior Nicole Iannotto, the Patriots’ captain, 5-foot-7 junior Andrea Condor, a transfer from Christ the King and junior Michelle Portilla.
“We’re a very deep team with a lot of good players,” Eisenberg said. “It’s going to be difficult getting everyone playing time in games. We have 12 legitimate high school players who would get a lot of minutes on other teams.”
Joel Ascher is no stranger to success at August Martin, but for a second straight year the Angels’ head coach thinks his team will have its problems.
Ascher also said that before last season, but Martin went on to go 16-6 before losing to division rival Francis Lewis in the PSAL quarterfinals.
“We’re struggling right now,” he said. “We’re starting out a little worse than last year though. We have a lot of younger kids and the lack of experience hurts a lot.”
Replacing last year’s starters, Cherita Gray, Eboni Williams and Nerisa Williams, each of whom are at Division II New York Tech, as well as Yashika Williams, who is at Borough of Manhattan Community College, is proving to be a difficult task.
Back for Martin is 5-foot-7 senior Samantha Glover, a hard-nosed small forward, 5-foot-6 senior guard Rashana Jackson, 5-foot-4 junior guard Monique Jenkins and 5-foot-9 junior power forward Electra Moore. Ascher is hoping 6-foot-2 center Candice Stevens can also contribute, although he says she is trying to juggle her work and school schedule.
After cutting a large halftime deficit to just two in a loss to Canarsie, one of the top teams in Brooklyn, Larry Carradine has high hopes for his young Cardozo squad.
“I think we’re going to hang in there,” said Carradine, whose starting five consists of four sophomores and one junior. “If we can stay healthy, we’re going to compete with a lot of teams.”
Sophomore Britni Bowlden, a 5-foot-7 center, is “one of the most athletic players on the team, she gets up there,” Carradine said. Leah Lipschitz, a 5-foot-7 sophomore guard, is back after finishing second in scoring last year.
Also returning are junior small forwards Theresa Vialet and Candice Smith. Denise Fath, a 5-foot-7 sophomore guard whose brother Doug played on the Cardozo boys city championship team in 1999, is a quick learner who has a nice shooting touch. And 5-foot-4 sophomore point guard Chris Jones is a talented ball handler who transferred from St. John’s Prep.
Townsend Harris finished tied for third place with Cardozo in Queens ‘A’ with an 8-4 record (15-7 overall) last year, but lost the tiebreaker. While the team’s sparkplug and leading rebounder Danielle Carlino graduated, the Hawks have return many key components.
The starting backcourt of 5-foot-7 junior point guard Andi Strauss and 5-foot-8 senior shooting guard Jessica Sharoff is back and is bolstered by the addition of 5-foot-5 sophomore Katie Driscoll, who is up from junior varsity.
Sophomore Shanay Freeman, a 5-foot-8 small forward, who averaged 11 points per game last year, is joined in the frontcourt by three-year starter Kristina Casper, a 5-foot-10 senior forward, and 5-foot-8 senior center Sarah Walters. Alexander Lore, a 5-foot-10 junior who is also a volleyball standout, is also new to the team.
“We have a lot of speed and if the defense holds up like it did last year, we should be good,” Townsend Harris head coach Larry Ceraulo. “We’re deeper on the bench this year.”
With no one taller than 5-foot-8 on a Bryant team that returns three starters from a 10-11 team, head coach Jimmy Exarhos is hoping the Owls can get out and use the team’s speed to its advantage.
Seniors Annette Cabrera (5-foot-5) and Caroline Akhnoukh (5-foot-5) are co-captains and three-year starters in the backcourt. Also back is 5-foot-5 junior Jackie Rodriguez, 5-foot-6 senior Jennifer Feley and 5-foot-8 junior Ally Stamatiades, who is the center by default.
Jamaica, coached by Steve Heiss, should also be small and quick and with only two returning starters. Hillcrest coach Dennis Oilman expects this to be a rebuilding year.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.